Čoček (L*) CHORAL, Kjuček, Qyqek, Köçek; also Sa, Sasa, Opsa – Pan-Balkan Roma & Gadje line dance,

*a Living dance, performed in the country of origin (or immigrant communities) as part of a social event like a wedding where others can participate (not for an audience) by people who learned the dance informally (from friends and relatives by observation and imitation, not in a classroom situation).

Čoček roots

Čoček, and its equivalent in other Balkan languages, is a term with MANY meanings, including a music style, a solo dance, several choral dances, and others. The word stems from the Turkish köçek. According to Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%C3%B6%C3%A7ek “The Turkish word is derived from the Persian word kuchak, meaning “little”, “small”, or “young”, which itself is the Persian pronunciation of the Turkish word küçük, “little”. In the Crimean Tatar language, the word köçek means “baby camel.

“Köçek with a tambourine, Photograph late 19th century. From Wikipedia

Wikipedia also says “The köçek (plural köçekler in Turkish) was typically a very handsome young male rakkas, or dancer, who usually cross-dressed in feminine attire, and was employed as an entertainer. They were recruited from among the ranks of the non-Muslim subject nations of the empire, such as Jews, Romani, Greeks and Albanians. The dances, collectively known as köçek oyunu, blended Arab, Greek, Assyrian and Kurdish elements (Karsilamas dance and Kaşık Havası dance)..A köçek would begin training around the age of seven or eight and would be considered accomplished after about six years of study and practice. A dancer’s career would last as long as he was beardless and retained his youthful appearance….The köçeks were available sexually, often to the highest bidder, in the passive role…Köçeks were much more sought after than the çengi (“belly dancers“), their female counterparts. Some youths were known to have been killed by the çengi, who were extremely jealous of men’s attention toward the boys….As of 1805, there were approximately 600 köçek dancers working in the taverns of the Turkish capital. They were outlawed in 1837 due to fighting among audience members over the dancers. With the suppression of harem culture under Sultan ‘Abdu’l-‘Aziz (1861–1876) and Sultan Abdul Hamid II (1876–1908), köçek dance and music lost the support of its imperial patrons and gradually disappeared.

More information can be found here https://azizasaid.wordpress.com/2008/08/31/a-question-of-kocek-men-in-skirts/ Köçek are still to be seen in some parts of Turkey today. For more on Turkish köçek, click here.

2011. Dancing starts at 2:43. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n-fb1WIp2Og&t=201s

Čoček – the music

The meter can be 2/4, 7/8, 9/8, 10/8, but what distinguishes čoček music is the syncopated beat. For more information and examples, click Čoček – the Music.

2013 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aRtF_oBXCUI

Čoček – the choral dance

What is a choral čoček dance, you might ask? Think of a chorus line – the line of leggy dancers on a Broadway stage. They got their name from the Chorus – a group of performers in ancient Greek theatre. Says Wikipedia “A Greek chorus, or simply chorus (Greek: χορός, translit. chorós), in the context of ancient Greek tragedy, comedy, satyr plays, and modern works inspired by them, is a homogeneous, non-individualised group of performers, who comment with a collective voice on the dramatic action. The chorus consisted of between 12 and 50 players, who variously danced, sang or spoke their lines in unison, and sometimes wore masks. Historian H. D. F. Kitto argues that the term chorus gives us hints about its function in the plays of ancient Greece: “The Greek verb choreuo, ‘I am a member of the chorus’, has the sense ‘I am dancing’. The word ode means not something recited or declaimed, but ‘a song’. The ‘orchestra’, in which a chorus had its being, is literally a ‘dancing floor’. “From this, it can be inferred that the chorus danced and sang poetry.” From Greek: χορός, translit. chorós, we get the Bulgarian word horo, the Macedonian oro, the Romanian Hora, the Russian khorovod, etc. – all meaning a line of dancers.

Five basic step patterns used by choral čoček dancers.

1. Slavic Serbs and Bosnians like to do the Taproot dance, T-6. Step, step, step, ______, step, _____. Sometimes steps 4 & 6 are kicks, sometimes touches.

Čoček, T-6, 2/4 time, Bosnia, Slavic style. 2012 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nlmqZjT6O_Y
Bosnia? Wedding, čoček in 2/4. Around 4:22 watch the girls in jeans to see the T-6 footwork. Bosnia, 2018 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xjt_1GiEZnk
T-6 Čoček, 2/4. Footwork visible at 2:24, Tutin, 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9K0rjKufrX4

2. Basic T-6 variation (below): step, step, step, ____, step, ____, becomes step, step, S,Q,Q, S,Q,Q,

A basic T-6 variation thus: step, step, S,Q,Q, S,Q,Q,
A good view of the step, step, S,Q,Q, S,Q,Q, footwork starts at 3:55. 2019, Vranje, South Serbia. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gYzEzoDB300
Same footwork as Dunav, above. Wedding, Kumanovo, North Macedonia 2013. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HRL1tK8oMKE
Roma dancing at a circumcision event, Sweden 2019. Footwork best seen at 4:55. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sNosyYU0KPY
At 9:35 music becomes more ‘modern’ but čoček footwork remains the same. Often, but especially around 28:30-29:50 some women dance solo-style. Roma from Bujanovac, south Serbia, 2013. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IXzqw4tIhcA
Same footwork. A Romani wedding čoček in N Macedonia, 2016. A good example of why it takes 45 minutes to do a simple dance. It’s not just a dance, it’s really a way of giving each important family and village member a place in the wedding celebrations. It’s the bride’s day to shine, and everyone is to witness her beauty. The bride and her mother and grandmother? leave home, entering the public sphere, and begin dancing čoček. At 3:56 the groom enters at the head of the line. From here can escort the bride to his home. The bride’s mother inserts other women in the front of the line giving them the honour of leading the bride, showing their important relationship to her, while other women do solo čočeks, also celebrating the marriage. The line keeps circling around the immediate neighbourhood, where the bride is known. At 28:25 the groom and some male friends join the line, but behind the bride. At 35:05 the groom is encouraged to witness the bride’s solo čoček. An older man, presumably the bride’s or groom’s father, joins in. At 41:29 an even older couple, presumably the bride or groom’s grandfather and grandmother, dance beside the bride. At 44:58, the women start another dance. Anyone know what it is? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rdLwKiZBH8E
Here’s the same 2/4 rhythm but faster. A basic T-6 variation thus: step, step, step, kick, step, kick, becomes step, step, Q,Q,S, Q,Q,S, best seen half speed at 2:22. The video is from Vranje, Serbia,1970’s. Bakija Bakic is on trumpet. This dance is also known as Sa or Sa Sa. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3dhUZQEpw-o
Two dances very popular among gadje (Romani word for non-Romani) Serbian youth 1. Bugarka kolo, 2. Sa Sa kolo (begins at 2:02). 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uk1nBrlxckM

3. Qyqek (Albanian) T-4 – Kick, step, step, step, (Pogoniste) to a čoček beat.

Hajde luj qyqek 2021, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PieyttjjohY

4. Čoček in 9/8 – Q,Q,Q,S. step,step,step,lift or touch

Čoček in 9/8 – Q,Q,Q,S. step,step,step,lift or touch. Best seen 0:35-0:50. Vranje, Serbia, 1970’s https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5O-17-ed0Qk
Vranje, south Serbia, 2013. At 0:00-2:43, T-6 S,Q,Q ritual dance by groom’s mother; At 3:38-10:25, solo čoček by groom’s mother, 2/4; 11:55-18:00, čoček in 9/8; Q,Q,Q,S, followed by other local Romani slow line dances. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kuuYS4OTgyI

5. Indijski Čoček 10×2 beats. 1st Generation dance

Steve Kotansky demonstrates Indijski čoček. 2013. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xSIh_0LSo_Y

For more on Indijski čoček, click here.

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